NEW YORK — Kids who play video games can learn to avoid bullying by being more assertive, a new study suggests.
The findings could also help teachers prepare students for life after school, said study author Dr. James F. Gagnon, a professor of psychology at the University of Virginia.
“If you get the right lessons in the right place, you can have kids be a better person,” he said.
Kids have a need to learn, so if they can get that from a video game, then it might help them feel better about themselves and their feelings, he said, adding that the video games are not necessarily the answer.
They need to be the first ones to respond, to challenge people, to push the boundaries, Gagnons research showed.
Children need to feel that they have control over their lives, Gascons research shows.
“So a lot of that is really just being assertive in a way that doesn’t hurt anybody,” he added.
A group of about 300 preschoolers in Virginia took part in the study and completed a series of games that were presented to them in groups of five or six.
One group was given a “group” game, with the other five or seven playing alone.
After the group game, participants played for about 20 minutes, then each of them was randomly assigned to a group of three or four.
In the group of five- to six-year-olds, the video game instruction consisted of telling the kids about bullying, including a story of a bully who got his revenge.
For the group games, the kids were told that the bully would have to be defeated, that they were being watched and were being judged.
Once the group session was over, the children were tested for aggression, as well as for their social skills.
Overall, the study showed that the more assertiveness the children got in the group, the less likely they were to get bullied in the real world, the research showed in a paper published online on Aug. 28 in the journal Pediatrics.
And children who got a more assertively-taught video game also were more likely to get their peers to challenge their feelings and thoughts, the researchers found.
While there is little research on how video games help children deal with bullying, there are signs that they can help adults deal with their own challenges, the authors said.